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How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

“To sleep, perchance to dream…”

Okay, so Hamlet was talking about death. But for the purpose of this article, can we just pretend he was talking about hitting the hay for a good night’s rest?

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It’s no surprise that you need to be rested and refreshed in order to be as productive as possible each and every day. Unfortunately, though, sometimes sleep doesn’t come as easy as it should. Those restless nights aren’t entirely random, however. Your actions leading to laying down for the night determine whether you’ll be able to drift off to dreamland, or find yourself wide awake, counting endless sheep until three in the morning.

If you need a good night’s sleep, make sure to:

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1. Avoid chemicals

Tobacco, drugs, alcohol, even caffeine can all keep you from nodding off easily for a variety of reasons. Obviously, caffeine and other stimulants are going to keep you up, even if taken hours beforehand. While alcohol technically does the opposite, you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night after the numbing effects wear off. Don’t you miss the college days, when you could actually sleep through a hangover?

2. Avoid junk food

In the same vein as other chemicals, eating junk food before bed is going to come back to haunt you overnight. If you’ve ever seen Home Improvement, you’ve seen the running gag in which Tim eats some spicy food or sausage and peppers as a “quick snack,” only to end up groaning all night while holding his stomach. While it’s difficult to sleep on a completely empty stomach, you shouldn’t pack it all in before bed as if you’re going to the electric chair. Eat a light snack such as fruit or a salad to hold you over until the morning.

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3. Stay hydrated

Hopefully you’ve taken my previous advice and started drinking more water throughout the day. Your fluid intake throughout the day greatly affects your ability to sleep through the night. Think about it: you go six to eight hours every night without taking a single sip of water. If you hadn’t consumed enough throughout the day, you’re going to end up severely dehydrated overnight. Obviously, you don’t want to drink so much that you keep waking up for other reasons, but make sure you have a glass of the good stuff about an hour before you lay down at night.

4. Eliminate noise

Going to sleep with the TV on is bad enough for your mental and physical health, but now we’ve thrown cell phones into the mix as well. And “noise” doesn’t just refer to sound; excess lighting can also interrupt a good night’s sleep, even on a subconscious level. Finally, the “noise” your thoughts create definitely make it harder to drift off; how can you sleep when you have so much to take care of? As best you can, put your worries on the shelf until morning. There’s really not much you can get done at 1:00AM on a Tuesday, anyway.

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5. Have a routine

Having a routine for pretty much anything makes life easier, right? When your life follows a natural progression, the next step comes to you like clockwork. You probably already have a ritual that you follow, that includes brushing your teeth, washing your face, and other preparatory acts to get you ready to hit the sack. If so, what happens when you miss one of the steps? It probably keeps you up longer than you want to be. If you have a ritual or routine, stick to it. Not only will it help you sleep better, but it’s probably healthier, too.

6. Earn your sleep

If you’ve ever had a day in which you didn’t put much effort into your work or slacked off, neglecting errands in favor of sitting on the couch all evening, it’s more than likely you found it hard to fall asleep that night. Sleep is the human equivalent of recharging our batteries; if we haven’t used up our energy, we have no need to recharge. Of course, if we miss out on a night’s sleep, we’ll certainly feel it the next day, and the cycle of unproductiveness will continue. Take advantage of every single day by putting your all into everything you do. When you go to bed completely exhausted, no matter what else you have going on in life, sleep will come easy.

Featured photo credit: his side of the bed / Liz Lister via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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